All those big reds you didn't feel like opening in summer taste so much better with a hearty meal in cold weather. But the winter wine par excellence is fortified, which means wine with extra alcohol added. This alcohol, in the form of distilled grape spirit, boosts the strength from about 14 to anything between 18 and 20 per cent. The wine is then aged long term in oak barrels. Result: muscat, topaque or tawny. Vintage fortified, formerly named vintage port, is intended to age in the bottle. And if champagne sends a shiver down the spine, try sparkling red. It's a great food wine.
Yalumba Aged Tawny, 21 Years Old, Barossa, $79 (500ml)
This is the youngest and most affordable of Yalumba's three great old tawnies. The colour is light brown with a yellow rim, the bouquet shows mellow complexity with vanilla, toffee, walnut notes and rancio touches. Very intense and quite sweet, it has a firm backbone of acid and spirit, finishing long. A fine after-dinner sipper. Cork; 20 per cent alcohol.
Ageing? No, not necessary.
Stockists include: yalumba.com
Stanton & Killeen Vintage Fortified 2017, Rutherglen $42
An elegant vintage port style made from grand noir, tinta cao, tinta barroca and durif. Its attractively fragrant aroma includes plum, prune and aniseed-like spirit. It's medium-bodied – not your traditional heavy Aussie style – and finishes relatively dry. Rich blackberry flavour, pleasant sweetness early followed by ample but supple tannins. Approachable now, with many years ahead. Cork; 17.8 per cent alcohol.
Ageing? Drink now to 20+ years.
Stockists include: stantonandkilleen.com.au
Peter Lehmann Black Queen Sparkling Shiraz 2014, Barossa Valley, $42
Deep red colour with a trace of purple and a lively collar of foam. The bouquet shows shiraz spice, licorice, aniseed and a hint of oak, while fruit holds centre-stage. The palate is full and soft, round and pillowy. Very good flavour depth and richness is augmented by balanced sweetness. The tannins are soft and easy. A very smart sparkling red. Diam cork; 14 per cent alcohol.
Ageing? Drink now to 2029.